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A family that cooks together

At DC Central Kitchen Cafe’s November graduation, the audience watched as two generations, a father and a son, came together to celebrate new opportunities and a love of cooking. James, a DC Central Kitchen employee and graduate of our Culinary Job Training program, watched his 18-year-old son, James (Trey), take this big step, too.  


But this story goes back yet another generation. James’ love of cooking started decades ago, at age 12 in his DC childhood home, making meals alongside his own father (Trey’s grandfather). “Watching my father made me want to do the same thing,” he says. 

This love of culinary didn’t become a career for James until more recently, when he had children of his own. In 2015, while James was working a roofing job, he heard about the Culinary Job Training program and hit the ground running. 

James enrolled at DC Central Kitchen, interned at the Ritz-Carlton, and upon graduation, accepted two job offers  at Sweetgreen and at DC-based startup, Misfit Juicery. He worked long days and over 80 hours a week, and it paid off, as he was promoted at both jobs and then offered a full-time role as a Senior Production Manager at Misfit. 

In 2017, James moved onto a new opportunity, when Misfit moved its headquarters to New York, and he decided to stay local. He called up DC Central Kitchen Employment Services Manager Jamilah  at DC Central Kitchen, and within a few weeks, he was at our social enterprise hub, helping prepare thousands of scratch-cooked meals a day for our Healthy School Food program. 

 “I knew this was something I wanted to do,” he says. “I wanted to cook.”  

In spring of 2019, James’ son, Trey, was back at home after finishing a 6-month Job Corps program. He started volunteering with his dad at the Kitchen, and that’s when he heard about our new training program for young adults at DC Central Kitchen Cafe.  

Trey enrolled at the Cafe, interned at Nando’s Peri-Peri, and was offered a position there after graduation, where he’s working full-time today. And as if fate would have it, while Trey was working through the program this fall, his father James accepted a position at the Cafe and was working right alongside him.  


What’s next for James and Trey? 

When James graduated, he had made a 5-year plan to start his own catering business and restaurant. For now, though, he’s taking it by day. “I need to slow down first,” he says. “I’m waiting for my daughter to join us. She graduates from high school next year and wants to go to culinary school, too.” 

And for Trey, he’s eager to tackle the next skill and role at Nando’s. “I want to learn how to cook on the grill,” he says. “To be on the front line.” 

For now, James and Trey are looking a bit closer ahead – to Thanksgiving this week. For years, James’ father led the charge in the kitchen, with James helping alongside him.  

This time, though, Trey will join alongside his father. “It’s time for him to get up in the kitchen with me!” James laughs. “Now I’m just filling in, and he can take the lead.”